Los Angeles, CA – The Los Angeles County sheriff on Wednesday announced that a member of his department would be attending parole hearings going forward after the new district attorney failed to object to the release of Manson “family” member and convicted killer Bruce Davis.
Newly-elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, who campaigned on a promise to reduce the inmate population, recently decided that prosecutors would no longer attend California Board of Parole hearings to advocate against the release of criminals, NBC News reported.
Kay Martley, 81, said she was shocked when she found out at the parole hearing for Davis that no prosecutor would be participating to advocate for the victim.
“I had no one to speak for me,” Martley said. “I felt like no one cares about the victim’s families anymore. We are totally forgotten.”
Davis was convicted of torturing and killing Martley’s cousin, Gary Hinman, on July 27, 1969, according to NBC News.
Davis, now 78, was sentenced to life in prison in 1972.
Gascón issued a directive in a memo to his staff on Dec. 7, 2020, the day he was sworn as district attorney, which put a halt to prosecutors opposing parole for any inmate who has already served their minimum mandatory sentence.
The memo also directed prosecutors to support, in writing, grants of parole for those criminals, regardless of the heinousness of their crimes, NBC News reported.
“My jaw drops. I’m outraged,” Debra Tate, the sister of murdered actress Sharon Tate, said.
Sharon Tate was also murdered by followers of cult leader Charles Manson, NBC News reported.
“At the most horrible moment, when you have to relive the gruesome details of the loss of your loved ones, you are now also supposed to perform the job and act as the DA would,” Debra Tate said.
Gascón has said that state prison officials were better suited than prosecutors to determine who should be released, NBC News reported.
The district attorney did allow that prosecutors “may, in their letter, take a neutral position on the grant of parole” if prison officials had determined the inmate was a “high risk” to re-offend.
“The prosecutors’ role ends at sentencing,” Alex Bastian, special adviser to Gascón, told NBC News. “There’s been a tug of war between public safety versus equity. The DA believes you can do both.”
Bastian said victims’ advocates would be available to assist at parole hearings, but Martley said she was never given that option before Davis’s hearing.
On Feb. 3, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva sent a letter to Gascón that informed the district attorney that the sheriff’s department would pick up his slack, NBC News reported.
Sheriff Villanueva told the district attorney that he “strongly” believed that sending someone from the sheriff’s department to assist victims and their families’ opposing parole was “the right thing to do.”
“As you know, leaders will agree to disagree at times; however, we must continually work together to provide the best public safety possible and advocate for the rights of victims,” the sheriff wrote.
He used the Manson cases as an example of why he objected to Gascón’s new policy of not opposing parole, NBC News reported.
“Having a blanket rule that says we’re not going to oppose any one, I don’t think it’s going to be a positive for representing the interests of victims at all,” Sheriff Villanueva explained during a Facebook Live broadcast.
“The DA has elected not to appear in these and that is his prerogative for his agency,” he said. “However we are not going to abandon victims of crime. We are going to stand with them shoulder to shoulder and any help they need in this process, we will be there to represent them.”